Vancouver to spend $2.1 million on street-cleaning jobs for the homeless in 2021

Feb 8 2021, 12:09 pm

In a meeting this week, Vancouver City Council is expected to approve the largest supplementary street-cleaning grant program budget for the inner city yet, all the while supporting low-barrier jobs for the homeless and other low-income people.

The 2021 program will have a budget of $2.105 million, representing an increase from $1.84 million in 2020 and $1.615 million in 2019.

This includes $1.183 million for micro-cleaning, $637,000 to support the micro-cleaning efforts of business improvement associations (BIAs), and $230,000 for various pilot projects.

The funding will be used to support the work of non-profit organizations that deal with the homeless, providing these individuals with employment and life-skill training opportunities.

The allocations are $469,100 for Save Our Living Environment, $663,000 for Coast Mental Health Foundation, $796,000 for Mission Possible Compassionate Ministries Society, $73,100 for Family Services of Greater Vancouver, $48,800 for The Kettle Friendship Society, and $55,000 for Makeway Charitable Society’s Binners’ Project.

For 2021, through the funding increase, an additional 18 micro-cleaning shifts per week will be allocated to the Downtown Eastside, Chinatown, Gastown, Hastings Crossings, Granville Street in downtown, Crosstown, and Strathcona.

A grant of $75,000 to Mission Possible will specifically target a new feces removal response team pilot program operating during weekday mornings in downtown, Chinatown, and the Downtown Eastside. This pilot will proactively focus on areas where feces is a known problem, and the team will be available to react to specific complaints received by the city hotline.

This will be a two-person response team collecting feces and sanitizing the areas using a disinfectant spray. The pilot program would run between March and November 2021.

Additional funding this year will also support micro-cleaning in eight existing and three future pop-up plazas.

“Micro-cleaning involves daily collection of litter and needles on foot using brooms, shovels and wheeled garbage carts, and is work that is outside the scope of services provided by the City’s forces,” reads a city staff report.

“In addition, the grant program supports initiatives involving the local binning community and over the last few years, has assisted in developing strategies to address challenges with rat populations.”

The grant funding in 2020 covered micro-cleaning in an area covering about seven sq. km. and within 22 BIAs, providing 50,000 employment hours to the homeless, and collecting 21,350 bags of litter and 80,600 needles. It also provided micro-cleaning for 13 temporary and permanent plazas.

This is supplemental to some of the street-cleaning efforts of city maintenance and operations crews.

Last year, city council approved a one-time $8-million transfer from the 2019-2022 capital plan towards priority initiatives in the 2021 operating budget, including $1.3 million for enhanced street cleaning to “respond to increased demand” due to social issues arising from the pandemic.

Vancouver Coastal Health also operates a needle pick-up program with teams in vans conducting regular needle sweeps in school grounds, parks, and other public locations where there are high volumes of discarded needles. The public can also report discarded needles to the needle pick-up hotline.

Calls for increased street cleaning and needle pick-up were also a specific request from a group representing businesses and organizations in Chinatown.

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